Twin Peaks: The Return, Part Ten

“No wool for us!”

I first watched Twin Peaks on videotapes that I rented from Blockbuster. In other words, many years ago. I watched it again on Netflix, and then again to review it, and then again to finish reviewing it. As I reviewed it, I realized that I loved the first two seasons of Twin Peaks despite its flaws because I knew its greatest strength: meaningfulness.

In other words: A complex portrayal of good and evil. A mixture of the cosmic and the personal. Beautiful cinematography. A mythological system just complex enough to enchant but not so paint-by-numbers that it spoils the enchantment. Heart. Pluck.

But at the most basic, process-oriented level, multiple rewatches of Twin Peaks allowed me to love the show because I knew how it ended, so I knew what mattered and what didn’t.

Last week, Thomas said that “some review sites seem desperate to buy into the Emperor's new clothes and only really dare to criticize it when they actually understand it.” I agree: aside from some early negative reactions, critics are mostly singing the same tune: if you don’t like it, you don’t get it.

And that may be true. I may be an idiot. I also might change my mind after watching the entire season. I reserve the right to do so, since I know from experience that Lynch’s oeuvre works best considered as a whole, but weekly reviews mean we can discuss only parts. With other shows that works, but with Twin Peaks it’s like asking me what I think of London while I’m still waiting for a connecting flight out of the Oakland airport.

These are some of the notes I made while watching Part Ten:

• Amanda Seyfried and her terrible boyfriend
• The Horne Grandson and violence against women
• Robert Knepper and violence against flies
• Corruption in the sheriff’s office
• Way to go, Dougie!
• Way to go, Albert!

That ad hoc list presents a few themes: an attempt to find thematic coherence to the violence. A realization that I don’t remember most of the characters’ names because I haven’t gotten enough time to know them or—more importantly—know why I should care. Some glee that Albert met his romantic match, because I really like Albert.

And some apathy that Dougie got laid. It was funny to see his exuberance at, basically, discovering sex for the first time. But the only reason I care about Dougie is what he might become: real Cooper. But he’s not Cooper yet, and he might not be until the end of this series, or possibly ever. But right now, like Oakland, there’s no there there.

I could, if I wanted to, talk about the theme of voyeurism in this episode. Robert Knepper watching TV with Jim Belushi, then watching the casino CCTV. Lucy and the mailman watching creepy Deputy Chad. Nadine watching Dr. Jacoby on TV. Sonny Jim listening in on his parents having sex. Johnny Horne forced to watch his mother attacked by her own grandson, but unable to help. Gordon Cole and Tammy watching Albert on his date.

But I have no idea how it all fits together. One of the first shots of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is a baseball bat smashing a TV. It was a rejection of the soap-opera model that both provided Lynch with his inspiration and constrained him as the show moved into its section season.

But the theme of voyeurism here is more oblique. Are we meant to contrast our own experience watching the show, waiting for answers, with the easy acceptance of all the people who watch and learn on screen? The Mitchum brothers got to ask what Candie was talking about. We don’t have that luxury.

All we have is a final promise: “The circle is almost complete. Watch and listen to the dream of time and space.” The Log Lady’s word will surely mean something soon, I suppose.

But they don’t mean anything yet.

Damn Fine Coffee:

• Harry Dean Stanton singing “Red River Valley” was lovely, especially the way the lyrics juxtaposed with the final song, “No Stars” by Rebekah Del Rio.

• Gordon Cole experienced a very Lynchian vision of Laura Palmer when he opened his hotel-room door.

• Gordon and Albert seem to have figured out that Diane is not what she seems. They’ve also figured out that EvilCooper is connected to murders. But what we want them to figure out, of course, is that Dougie is Cooper. Sigh.

• I’m glad that Janey-E finally acknowledge that something was a bit off with Dougie.

I’m going to leave this unrated for now. How many silent drape runners would you give it?

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

9 comments:

Keith Kotay said...

I agree, Josie, this episode is not very satisfying. I feel about this the same as I feel about the #10 episode of season 2: #8 was monumental, and this just feels like a second letdown in a row. Maybe that's the intention--or the inevitability? Pacing is important in a novel or series: Tolkien was great at inserting interludes in between the exciting sections, as a means of letting the reader relax. It seems that Lynch likes to do the same within each episode--the wacky bits acts as buffers in between the intense sections. Whether he's intentionally doing the same with whole episodes I can't say for sure, but we are only getting incremental plot development in the various arcs in the last two episodes...

And so many arcs--is there any way they can all be resolved in the remaining episodes? And are any of the new arcs interesting? We don't really know much (or in some cases anything) about the people in them...

I thought Cooper might have woken up during the sex scene (which could be comical), but apparently not. I hope it happens soon. Of course, once he does wake up things are going to happen very quickly. So it may only occur in time for the last two episodes...

I don't understand the Laura Palmer vision by Cole--he doesn't even mention it to Albert. I think I would say something if I just had a vision, especially since Albert was in on the mystical stuff 25 years ago...

So Diane has a bunch of guys interested in her in Philly, and she responded to Bad Cooper's text. I still don't know whether she's cooperating intentionally or because of blackmail, but at least Cole is on to her. It appears that they are going to visit the access site for the 'other dimension'--perhaps at the same time as Truman, Hawk, and Bobby are going to the site near Twin Peaks?

Why did the being/spirit in the 'zone' ask Hastings for the name of his wife?

The whole Janey-E/Dougie situation is impossible. And not just Janey-E but everyone around Dougie. It's totally obvious that the guy is not in his right mind--he hasn't spoken a complete sentence for days. And what doctor undresses his adult patients, and doesn't ask questions of the person they are examining which require full-sentence answers? I'm trying to see how this might be allegorical (and not succeeding), but I am sure that Dougie would be in a psych ward by now in any normal reality (or at least examined for evidence of a stroke)...

And what's up with the three cocktail waitresses in Vegas? That also has to be allegorical, especially Candie's bizarre behavior in this episode. I thought they might be drugged, but that doesn't seem to be the case. And why do they hang out in the security room with glazed expressions on their faces?

It seems every episode has to have some random (or at least tangential) moment(s) of violence. These are probably symbolic as well, if only to reinforce the sense of the general nastiness in the world. I guess when you have 25 years to think about a story you can work up some serious symbolism...

To be continued...

Keith Kotay said...

It's clear that we are building to a crescendo, and I hope it will be satisfying. I'm worried that it won't be. I'm starting to think that it would have been better for Lynch to do 6 surreal episodes like the majority of #8 and leave it at that. He's at his best when he's doing full-blown surreal, not bits of surreal stuck in normal scenes. Of course, I'm not sure Showtime would have paid for that, and I do like seeing the characters from 25 years ago--but the central character was Cooper, and he's still AWOL...

The real problem here is that we've had 25 years to imagine that there is some amazing metaphysical revelation that will explain everything that has happened (especially the nature of the Lodges and the beings that inhabit them), and might even have some allegorical relevance to the real world. Frost and Lynch have great imaginations, but this started out as a TV show, not a philosophical conference on the nature of reality. If we're lucky, we'll get some satisfying answers to some of the open issues--we shouldn't expect more than that...

Josie Kafka said...

The real problem here is that we've had 25 years to imagine that there is some amazing metaphysical revelation that will explain everything that has happened (especially the nature of the Lodges and the beings that inhabit them), and might even have some allegorical relevance to the real world.

Keith, that's an interesting perspective. I think my desires for, or imaginations of, this new season were a bit different: I mostly wanted character-based closure against the mystical backdrop, but not necessarily answers to how the lodges work. I feel like I understand enough about the lodges to be happy.

But our differing desires also raise the question of which narrative desire Lynch is trying to satisfy: he's not giving us answers, he's not giving us characters. He's just giving us vignettes.

Will it build to a crescendo, as you say? I hope so. But I've recently started to imagine the last episode as a bizarre musical in which all the disparate characters come on-stage to sing a show tune, hands in the air, with wacky musical-theatre grins on their faces. Then cut to black.

Keith Kotay said...

Hi Josie. I guess I was always more interested in the philosophical aspects of the supernatural events--probably because I read a lot of Carlos Castaneda in my youth, and a long time ago (in what seems like a galaxy far, far away) I was a Philosophy major...

However, I completely understand your focus on the characters. My favorite was Cooper, and he's in limbo at the moment. I also liked Maddie, but she's dead. Laura is captivating, although I don't really know her that well (I haven't seen Fire Walk with Me)--it would seem that some aspect of her still exists (not in heaven), but if we only see her in the Red Room it will be in small, disjointed doses. I don't recall if the the Donna/James relationship needed to be resolved (I'm still re-watching the 2nd season episodes), but it's not even clear whether Donna will make an appearance. So the characters I liked the most are not even there...

I never liked the Shelly/Leo/Bobby characters much, and I also didn't care for the Ben Horne/Catherine Martell/mill/real estate arc. Also, I didn't like Hank Jennings at all, and the Norma Jennings arc was dominated by wacky Nadine stuff...

It may be that F&L are giving us too many characters, which hinders character development...

As for the ending, yours would certainly be surreal although not very satisfying. ;-) It may depend on whether F&L and Showtime want to keep the series going. I don't think that was the intention at the beginning, but if everyone is having fun (and Showtime is making money) why not keep going? The danger there is that the audience may drop off like happened in the 2nd season. I think people were willing to go on an 18-hour adventure--partly for nostalgia, partly for resolution, and partly for mysticism. I'm not sure how many people would want to keep going for another year. Especially if the characters are not compelling, and the new ones don't seem to be so far. But it all might change when Cooper wakes up. People might be willing to tune in next year if Cooper is his old self...

I just hope there is one more surreal episode like #8. I'm willing to bet there will be. It might not explain much, but for me that was the best episode by far...

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

I only post this to thank you for the review and to point out that the scene with Laura screaming as Albert opened the door is a really, really bad omen. I'm sad to say, he may be done for. As we all know, Miguel Ferrer died in January and I wasn't sure how many episodes we'd get to watch of him.

Rest in peace, good sir. :'-(

Josie Kafka said...

Keith, Fire Walk With Me would answer a lot of your questions about the lodges, or at least the beings that inhabit the lodges.

Actually, let me rephrase: watching Fire Walk with Me and then reading internet theories would answer a lot of your questions about the lodges, or at least the beings that inhabit the lodges.

I won't review FWWM. It's the first Lynch film I ever saw, and I love the first 30 minutes. The rest of it is neither bad nor good: it's unbearable, because you know how it ends and there's no stopping it.

I think it's streaming on Showtime's app now. It must be.

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

A couple of points I'd like to make here.

I think a fourth season is highly unlikely for two intertwined reasons.

The first thing is that the third season is described as "an 18-part feature length film." It's a finished product. Now, he drove a hard bargain, got his 18 episodes and full creative control. This is vital. I don't think he cares about the bottom line, i.e. whether the project will make any money for Showtime. What mattered to him was the ability to make what he wanted with no compromises, and he got it.

The second, which may be a corollary, is that the ratings for this show are abysmal. No, ratings aren't the be-all-end-all of Showtime's shows, but Twin Peaks is the tenth highest rated on Showtime out of fourteen. Its average is 0.11. Shameless draws five times that number. Even cancelled Penny Dreadful clocked in at 0.18 in its third and final season. The fantastic The Borgias didn't even land a fourth season to finish its story despite higher ratings.

In summary, I think a continuation would be a miracle. The upside is we'll get genuine closure.

Keith Kotay said...

Hi Josie. Back when FWWM came out I wasn't interested in seeing it because I found Maddie's murder difficult to watch. Of course, when that happened I had no idea it was coming. Also, Maddie was killed on TV--I assumed that the murder of Laura would be more graphic since it was taking place in a film. I don't enjoy horror films, and I assumed that Laura's death would be on that level...

Yes, FWWM is on Showtime, so I could watch it at any point. However, it was tough enough watching Maddie's death again when re-watching season 2, so I don't know if I want to even try FWWM, even though it might provide information about the Lodges. Maybe I'll watch the beginning to see more of Sheryl Lee as Laura, but I doubt I'll make it to to end...

Keith Kotay said...

Hi Thomas. You may be correct about Albert. It wouldn't surprise me if he winds up on a slab in front of the lady medical examiner with whom he was dining in this episode...

I agree that total control was vital for Lynch. I don't think he'd do another season without it. I also agree that Lynch doesn't care about the bottom line--but if the show was a real moneymaker Showtime might be willing to pony up for another season under the same terms...

The only thing I had heard was that Showtime subscriptions set a record in anticipation of Twin Peaks: The Return. However, you are correct that the ratings have not been good, so I think this is the final chapter for Twin Peaks. Well, F&L have 8 hours to wrap it up...